Microsoft is beefing up the dictation capabilities of Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word with artificial intelligence.
The company on Tuesday rolled out the Dictate plugin, which uses the same Cognitive Services algorithms that power face recognition, language translation, and many other AI capabilities available to clients of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform. That means Dictate, which is still in beta, is poised to offer more accurate dictation than you'd otherwise get from the built-in Windows speech-recognition app.
Microsoft says Dictate started out as a hackathon project, but quickly spread throughout the company and is now on the PCs of more than 1,500 employees in more than 40 countries. It has Microsoft Translate built in, which means you can dictate in English and and have the text appear in more than 60 languages in real time.
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Once you download and install Dictate, its interface will appear as a tab in the Office ribbon. The basic controls include a stop/start button, a "result" box that displays the dictated text before it's added to the open document, and an option to add punctuation manually. You can also add punctuation and control the app with your voice by saying things like "new line", "stop dictation" and "enter."
The beta version of Dictate available now requires Windows 8.1 or later and Office 2013 or later, which means that many corporate users whose IT departments still run Windows 7 won't be able to use it. It's possible that Microsoft will add Dictate's features to future Office releases, especially as it looks to compete with Google's rapidly improving translation and voice-recognition capabilities.
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